My pulse is presently hitting a 7 on the Ritcher scale, and I can’t remember when it’s time for my dose of anti-anxiety pills. I think I wrote my password down in an email I sent to myself. Open email. Password. Three tries, three failures. “Prove to us that you are human,” it tells me. I undress. “Here’s the belly button,” I explain, nothing. Nothing. I’m asked to decipher some psychedelic letters, which I assume have been drawn by someone under the effects of ecstasy, to prove I’m man enough to get into my own mail. “Blander,” I type. I fail. There’s no reading those damn letters. “Plender.” Second error. “Last attempt before confirming you’re an animal.” “Brenda,” I type nervously. Correct! I look around. I can’t shake the feeling that someone just took pity on me. Be that as it may, I’m human now. Brief relief.
I am told that I have been sent an email to recover my password. It is now clear that they have not fully understood my problem. After a few more steps and random clicks on the screen: “Type your new password.” I type it. “That’s the old one.” Well hey! Who’da known? I think, while lamenting over having to make up another one. The password must contain at least 12 digits, upper and lower case, odd numbers separated from the characters by a letter that is greater than alpha, special characters, two Spanish omelettes, no more than three vowels, a 180-degree turn, and three firm swipes with the mouse.
After a thousand hours of study, I proudly type in the new password, and it is accepted. I confirm with a glance at the calendar that it is still March. It looks like I will finally see my email. Not. A window pops up. “We have detected that someone has tried to change your password.” Perspicacious fools they are. “If it wasn’t you, please contact our Security Center immediately; if it was you, sit back and relax.” It was me; who else would it be? Accept, continue, go on. I’m already hyperventilating more than Robert de Niro in Analyze This.
It’s starting to get dark outside, it smells like a fish-fry in the courtyard, and my mail claims to be loading. I doubt that the NASA guys who celebrated the Mars landing the other day were as excited as I am right now. The mail has opened! But before I could touch anything, another pop-up window: “To improve your security, we need you to provide us with your cell phone.” I try desperately to squeeze it through the slot for the CD. “Not the whole phone, asshole, just the number.” I type it quickly and press “continue.” “You haven’t entered your country code,” it tells me. I don’t know it. I search. I hit the damn code. I go back to the window. “Session has expired.” I close. I sing some Ramones a cappella. I decapitate the mouse with two fingernails.
I open the email. I am asked for the password. I have written it like a giant mural on the wall of my hotel room. I type it in. It seems to load. The window blinks and, finally, the message: “We have sent you a confirmation code to your mobile. Please enter it to access your email.” My hands spasm. I accidentally hit the glass that I had prepared for my tablet and spill the water on the keyboard. I quickly close the wet laptop and unplug it. It smells like when you try to bake pizza while watching soccer on TV.
I receive an SMS. The confirmation code. Uppercase, lowercase, and lots of numbers. These guys know their passwords. As I say the words out loud I can’t help thinking I’m becoming a complete idiot. I turn on the desktop computer, begging St. Jude Thaddeus not to ask me for the mile-long Wifi password — I don’t know it, and they’re expecting me home for Christmas.
Providence seems to be on my side. I manage to enter the mail. Hundreds of new emails. The last one is an email with a security alert. Every other toe on my left foot throbs. “Our intelligent outsider monitoring system detected fraudulent login attempts this afternoon from a computer other than this one. We have proceeded to block your account. Please make a note of your personal incident code for any inquiries: 2A18T3FX29.”
I succumb to a fit of nervous laughter first, and then I start crying. The modern world is hell. I call the number. Machine voice: “Tell me, digit by digit, your incident code.” It says, “I didn’t understand you.” I enumerate it again, pronouncing like a voice actor straight out of speech therapy. “I didn’t understand you.” I bite down on my own hand with all my might and try to tear it off. “If you wish to speak to one of our assistants, press 5.” I press 5. A rush of overlapping violins flood my ear. The first Christmas flakes fall in the window. The music cuts out. It starts again. More violins. Cut off. Violins. “Sorry, all our operators are busy. Try again in a few minutes.” It’s snowing hard now. The stress tablet has melted and is fizzing and popping in the heat from the bedside lamp. I start nibbling greedily on a lithium battery that says, “No biting.”
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, The American Spectator, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and is a columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an adviser to the Ministry for Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website: www.itxudiaz.com.
Translated by Joel Dalmau
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